Why I am depressed about the future of the Labour Party

On a recent episode of the Guardian's Politics Weekly podcast, Nick Cohen claimed that Labour supporters were not sufficiently scared. The writer and journalist suggested that members engaged in internecine fighting were not frightened enough of prolonged Tory rule. Let me to tell you, Nick, as a Labour Party member I am very frightened right now. Probably more frightened than I have been at any point in my adult life.

I cannot see any way out of mess the party has found itself in. The Labour Party seems more divided than the country as a whole, and the prospect of a permanent split is greater than at any point in the last 30 years. Whatever path it chooses, I only see ruin in its future.

The most likely short term outcome is that Jeremy Corbyn survives the current attempt to remove him as leader (or he is replaced by someone who also does not hold the confidence of the PLP, like John McDonnell). Any leader not from the Corbyn faction would have to win over the party membership, who are firmly pro-Corbyn.

So Corbyn stays and Labour mostly likely splits into two parties directly in competition with each other for the same voters. Due to First Past The Post, they would both fare poorly in a general election and the total number of left wing MPs would fall considerably. Labour's loss is the Tories’ gain. What follows is 15-20 years of Conservative rule, as Nick Cohen suggested in his podcast. In order to get back into power Labour (or what survived of it) would probably stand on a platform similar to what David Cameron offered in 2015 as a moderate alternative.

As a Corbyn supporter, I would be willing to accept a compromise to avoid this. The last thing I want to see is permanent split in the party - remember how well that went in the early 80s? This compromise would need a clear plan of how the party is to progress towards winning an election. As I have said before, “put Dan Jarvis in charge” is not a plan.

Suppose for a moment that the less likely short term outcome does occur, and an alternative to Corbyn succeeds in becoming party leader. This new leader would have to crush the left wing of the party to secure their authority, losing thousands of party members. We would go back to the days of senior party figures saying that Labour had been too soft on disabled and unemployed people who want some kind of quality of lifeand being intensely relaxed about the rich avoiding their taxes.

Voters want politicians they view as genuine. The Labour Party does not have on their front bench any communicator as talented as David Cameron. Still, despite his obvious skill in using the media and presenting his arguments, Cameron has struggled to build a consensus behind his premiership, because he seen as inauthentic. Do the Labour moderates feel that any of their pale Cameron imitators will do any better in convincing voters that they genuinely care about their lives? The Labour Party has lost the ability to communicate with sections of its core support, and I do not see Hilary Benn or Chuka Umunna doing any better.

Would deposing Corbyn herald a change from a party of protest to a government in waiting? This overlooks the obvious lack talent on the party’s right who cannot even execute a coup properly. With Scotland out of play, any Labour leader would need to win as big in England and Wales as Tony Blair did in 1997, and I do not see any front bench Labour politician who can achieve this.

This hypothetical Labour leader would need to be both a conviction and a consensus politician; media savvy yet authentic. Able to appease the party’s left and right. Anyone who thinks that person is Dan Javis or Tristram Hunt is wildly overestimating their abilities as politicians. If the moderates take back the party we will be lucky if we return to Ed Miliband levels of competency.

Even if the Labour moderates did retake the party and unite its disparate factions, they would then have to face the Tories in a general election AND deal with the fallout from the EU referendum. They have no means of responding to Brexit’s victory; they are pro-EU but confused by elections that they do not win. They have only one analysis for defeat: we were too left wing, we must become more right wing.

The Labour Party is faced with an impossible blind, as writer and journalist Laurie Pennyrecently said, "we have a choice between riots now and riots later". A general election will be called soon and it will be fought over the Brexit vote. The Labour Party would most likely stand on a pro EU, pro freedom of movement platform and lose the election after alienating 52% of voters, many of whom are its former core supporters. UKIP would pick up a lot of former Labour voters and the country would be led by a radically right wing coalition.

Possibly even worse is the prospect Labour could win that election, keep Britain in the EU or negotiate a Norwegian form of Brexit that protects freedom of movement. This would be seen as a betrayal of the 17 million voters who voted for Brexit mainly because they opposed immigration. Many of these Brexit voters are already very alienated from mainstream politics. If even 0.5% of these people are motivated to violence by this betrayal then the country could descend into race riots, the flames fanned by ongoing austerity.

What if Labour opposes freedom of movement, and backs ‘full Brexit’ in a cynical attempt to win over those 17 million voters? This involves the party supporting a campaign based on racism and xenophobia, as well as causing a huge recession, thus making the Labour Party very unpopular and probably leading to rising violence as sudden falls in GDP are related to civil unrest. Hence as Laurie Penny said, violence now from betraying the Brexit vote or violence later from a recession.

The future for Labour looks bleak. I am really depressed about the situation Labour is in and I cannot see any way forwards. The Tories are in a complete shambles, still divided over Europe and with no plan to implement Brexit. Many senior Tories are directly responsible for a divisive and racist EU referendum campaign, but still Labour cannot find a way to capitalise on Tory woes. It is infuriating to watch.

The country needs the Labour Party to unite and become an effective opposition because this brief spell of Tory infighting will end and then they will return, united and committed to a radically right wing vision of Britain. Labour need to get their act together now for the sake of the future.

I cannot see any chance of this happening. Even if Labour survives the current spate of internecine fighting then the problems of the Brexit vote and the lack of a clear plan to win a general election means the long term future of the party is awful to contemplate. We could be looking at the end of the Labour Party as a meaningful political force. So, Nick Cohen, yes I am very scared right now. Scared, and with a pronounced sense of hopelessness.

It is madness to get rid of Corbyn now

The Blairites have made no secret of the fact that they have wanted Jeremy Corbyn removed as Labour leader since he was elected last September with a huge mandate from party members. Now they are in open rebellion against Corbyn, trying to force him to resign. The timing is perfect for the Blairites. The mainstream media is distracted by the fallout from EU referendum vote, the Prime Minister has resigned and the pound is tumbling in value – it’s the perfect opportunity to move against Corbyn. His enemies are hoping for a quick palace coup before anyone notices and have chosen now as their moment to strike.

However the so called "moderates’" plan is remarkably short sighted. They can force a vote of no confidence in the party leader (which is likely to pass) but then they will face a leadership election. The party membership is firmly behind Corbyn and there is nothing to stop him standing again for leader and winning. Eventually the Labour moderates will have to come to terms with the fact that they are deeply unpopular with the grass roots of the party. Their plan is not that well thought through.

Even if they were able to take control of the party and install Chuka Umunna or Tristram Hunt as leader, then what? Under Corbyn the party had a clear direction. What will the new direction be? Have the moderates considered what they would do with power? Remember, a general election is probably going to be called soon, so whoever leads the party needs a plan to face the electorate.

Just so that we are clear. Here are some things that are not plans:

  • Anyone but Corbyn for leader
  • Step 1: Make Tristram Hunt the leader
  • Step 2: Er...
  • Step 3: Win general election
  • Surf into power on the back of the huge popular recognition of and support for Dan Jarvis based purely on the fact that he used to be in the army. People like soldiers, right?
  • A commitment to austerity and controls on immigration. Just like Ed Miliband, proposed.
  • Whatever the Sun says the plan is, that’s the plan.

Labour Party is facing a lot of external challenges right now. Challenges that predate Corbyn’s selection as leader. UKIP is gaining support in the former industrial North. The Tories are eating into its middle class support. Scotland is firmly off the table as a source of Labour MPs to form a majority government. Disillusionment with professional, media trained politicians is turning voters away from the large parties. The country is divided, between those gaining and losing out from globalisation, while politicians lack a narrative to bring it together unity. All of these will be important factors for Labour in a future election. So, what‘s the platform the moderates will offer to tackle these issues and win an election? What is the plan for solving the nation's problems?

Under Corbyn's leadership the party has grown in members. People now know what Labour stands for, whereas under Ed Miliband it was unclear. The public are responding well to Corbyn's authenticity, the fact that he is clearly different from inauthentic media trained politicians, and that he has clear principles. Policy is being developed from a range international economists including Thomas Piketty and Yanis Varoufakis. It is better to stick with the current platform and leader than to face the country with nothing expect a new leader who no one outside the Westminster bubble has heard of.

This sudden change in leadership being pressed for by the Blairites is a bad idea, especially if the new Tory Prime Minister calls an early election. It is a really bad idea to get rid of Corbyn now and replace him with uncertainty and lack of policy. The actions we have seen from Labour's moderates over the last few days do not indicate that they have a well thought through plan. This is just a reckless attempt to divide the party.

 

 

Labour need a better strategy

Now that the dust has settled on "Super Thursday" we can critically examine Jeremy Corbyn’s first big electoral test as leader of the Labour Party. The results are very mixed. The Labour Party had some successes, most notably Sadiq Khan’s election as Mayor of London ending the Tories’ eight-year occupation of that office. Elsewhere Labour did not fare so well, losing overall control of the Welsh Assembly and slipping to third place in the Scottish elections.

The severe trouble that Scottish Labour finds itself in predates Corbyn’s election as Labour leader; he cannot take much blame for it. However the real problem comes from the wider test of Corbyn's electability, the council elections. Last Thursday the Labour Party became the first opposition party to lose council seats in mid-term local elections since 1985. The Labour Party picked up fewer councilors than Ed Miliband's Labour in 2012 or William Hague’s Conservatives in 1998 - both of which went on to electoral defeats.

This does not necessarily mean Labour is doomed to a landslide defeat in 2020. It is almost impossible to accurately predict the outcome of an election four years in the future. However with Tories, Lib Dems and UKIP eating into Labour’s support and no clear path back to electability in Scotland, the outlook for Labour is not so good.

In many ways the Corbyn leadership is going badly. There have been a series of unprofessional disasters including John McDonnell waving around Chairman Mao's Little Red Book and Ken Livingston opening on Hitler a week before a critical election. The Conservatives are maneuvering on the centre ground of British politics and increasing their electoral support. At the same time, accusations of rising anti-Semitism are proving difficult to refute.

The ultimate question for Labour is what alternative is there? Corbyn's three leadership rivals were dismissed by party members not because of sudden love of socialism, but because they offered no chance of winning an election. The simple truth is that there is currently no alternative plan to get Labour back into government. Moderates talk about Dan Jarvis as a replacement leader, however, I do not understand what happens after Jarvis (or any other moderate) replaces Corbyn. What is the moderates' strategy for winning back voters and getting Labour into power?

In order for Labour to win the 2020 general election the party needs a platform that is radically different to what Gordon Brown offered in 2010, Miliband offered in 2015 and what the Tories are offering now. Repeating the failed 2010 or 2015 approach will not work in 2020. I do not see a direction that the moderates would take Labour in that would be different enough from the mistakes of the past and the current Tory government.

Those who argue for a return to Blair’s triangulation strategy miss the point. Rather than a cohesive coalition between working and middle class voters, the 1997 landslide relied on chasing ‘aspirational’ Middle England, safe in the knowledge that working class core voters could be relied on to vote Labour anyway. Endemic political alienation since then, along with the financial crash, means re-running New Labour is not the answer either.

Labour is under attack from all sides. Centrist middle class voters are defecting to the Tories; working class and northern voters are being wooed by UKIP. Scotland is off the table, for now. The strategy that the moderates would adopt to win back centrist, middle class voters is likely to drive working class voters to UKIP, and left leaning, metropolitan liberals to the Greens. There no is guarantee that Labour would fare any better under a different leader.

It is not enough to simply write off victory in 2020, as I fear both Corbyn and the Labour moderates have done. Labour needs a plan to return it to government. This criticism applies to both Corbyn, and to the moderates: fighting over control of the party does not matter if the party loses 100 seats in the next election. There has to be a clear strategy to win, and "make Dan Jarvis party leader” is not a plan, it is barely even the beginning of one.

Labour cannot spend the next 4 years squabbling and hand the Tories a landslide victory in 2020. Labour needs a clear, workable strategy to win the general election. Now is not the time for complacency. Now is the time for action.

Why Corbyn needs to be a positive defender of Britain in the EU

There are plenty of papers covering the "he said, she said" of the EU referendum. I want to take a step back and look at the campaign as a whole. As well the referendum being an important decision for the future of the country, it is an important political opportunity for Labour. As such, it is important that Labour shows a united front and that they take advantage of Tory divisions over Britain’s EU membership.

So far the Tories have kept their disagreements over the EU private because the Labour poll ratings have been so dire. Parties facing defeat show much less unity, for example the Tories in early 90s. There is currently a strong incentive for Tory MPs to stay in the good books of the leadership, i.e. being rewarded with government jobs in the 2020s.

However the mask of Tory unity is slipping. Boris Johnson is dividing the party by giving some credibility and popularity to the No campaign. This a careerist move from Boris, who views this as his last chance to become Tory leader and thus Prime Minister. Barbed words have already been exchanged between Boris and David Cameron, and the rift will only grow as Boris and George Osborn battle it out to be the heir apparent when Cameron steps down.

Labour's own divisions make it difficult to take advantage of the Tory split. This is why it is important for Labour to show a united front in the EU referendum. However, this is made harder by the fact that Labour's leader is not convinced of the benefit of EU membership. There are a lot of problems with the EU from a left wing perspective (TTIP is the tip of the iceberg) but the only way that the Labour Party can achieve socialist goals is through working with other left wing parties in a united Europe. Labour need to get behind the EU.

The left wing vote is needed for Britain to stay in the EU. This is why Alan Johnson is leading the passionately pro EU Labour In campaign. It is this positive approach to Europe that the country needs, not a scare campaign based on jobs and security that Britain Stronger in Europe will offer. Labour In is needed because if the left stay home on referendum day, the leave vote will win. Labour In is a great chance for the party to be the decisive element in British politics.

Corbyn and the Labour left need to take the upper hand if they want to stay in control of the party. There have been too many headlines about in-fighting and arguments between the Labour leadership and the PLP. The Tories are trying to maximise the divisions in Labour by moving forward the vote on renewing Trident. Labour need to do likewise, by making Tory divisions over Europe as big as possible, while putting on a well organised and united campaign to stay. If Corbyn can organise a united Labour Party, on the side of what most people want, against a divided and unpopular mid-term government, then he can turn the tide of bad headlines around.

This is a huge opportunity for Labour and Corbyn. A passionate, positive defence of the EU against a divided Tory party will show the public that Labour under Corbyn can be an effective opposition. People will believe Corbyn if he campaigns to stay in the EU. It plays to his strengths, namely that people think he is honest and believe what he has to say, which is unlike most politicians or his PLP rivals. He can even present his earlier wavering to his advantage - he considered both options sensibly, like the rest of us, before making an informed, balanced decision. Corbyn needs to take this opportunity to do what only he can do, show the county how Labour are different from the Tories.

Labour must be well disciplined, on the side of the voters and against a divided government. Above all, they must be positive, avoiding a mirror image of Farage’s knee-jerk rhetoric or the scare tactics of Cameron's stay in campaign. This will not only win the EU referendum for remain, but will also win back control of the headlines. Corbyn needs to seize this opportunity to start winning.

2015 a year in review - Jeremy Corbyn

This is a review of the political events of 2015. Read my summary of the general election here.

If the election was a surprise than what happened afterwards was a shock. Jeremy Corbyn was given odds of 800 to 1 when he was nominated to stand for Labour leader but he won with nearly 60% of the membership backing him. Corbyn won a huge victory across all ages, demographics and types of Labour members, but all has not gone well since then. Corbyn’s victory has exposed huge divisions in the Labour party.

I voted for Corbyn, and his politics are the closest to mine of any Labour leader during my lifetime. It has been painful to read the writings of many left-wing journalists I respect, trashing him at every opportunity. There are certainly legitimate criticisms of Corbyn – I will come to these – but I feel many journalists made up their minds early on that they did not like him and nothing he can do will change this. This is because the election of Corbyn as Labour leader goes beyond what you think of Corbyn personally, his voting record, or even his policies. It is a question of what Labour stands for and what it should aim to be.

The division opening up across the Labour movement is a division between those who want radical change to our politics and our society, and those who want liberal reform to our current system. It is the difference between those who want capitalism with the worst excesses removed or those who want our entire relationship with capitalism reformed. I feel this divide is unbridgeable, by Corbyn or anyone else.

Corbyn’s victory is partly down to having an ideology at all in an ideologically bankrupt Labour, and partly down to inspiring young voters and many alienated leftists and Greens. But it is mainly because the rival Blairite and Brownite candidates were awful. None of them looked like they could win a general election so the party members preferred to make a principled stand, rather than choose a Prime Minister in waiting. The Blairite and Brownite factions need to take a hard look at themselves to work out why they lost so massively to the left of the party. They have nothing to offer apart from indigent cries of “it’s our party, we should be in charge”. Since Corbyn’s election they have continued down this route, doubtlessly helping keep Corbyn popular among Labour Party members.

Labour wins big when it can unite the working class trade-union supporting voters, the liberal metropolitan middle class voters and the aspirational voters who think they will be better off under Labour. Under Miliband, UKIP ate away at the first group, the Greens at the second and the Tories took a huge bite of out the third. Corbyn is losing the third group, but he has stopped the exodus of the second group and a question mark remains over his appeal to the first. In Oldham UKIP heavily targeted this group, hoping that accusing Corbyn of not being patriotic could win over these voters. It did not work, because of the issues with UKIP discussed above. The Tories are trying the same tactic on a bigger scale and that is where the real threat to Labour lies.

If the Tories can win over group 1 and 3, while holding onto their core support, they will win big in 2020. However I do not see a Labour front bench figure who can win over all three groups and Labour need all three. Yvette Cooper gets group 2 and 3, but loses group 1. Liz Kendall gets group 1 and 3, but loses 2. Stella Creasy gets group 2 and 3, but loses 1. David Miliband gets group 3, but loses 1 and 2. The only possibilities would be Lisa Nandy or Jess Phillips but they are not exposed enough for us to accurately judge how well they would do as party leader.

Corbyn and his new shadow cabinet have made some mistakes. Certainly having John McDonnell waving around Chairman Mao's Little Red Book was a bad idea, however over four years away from a general election these mistakes matter little to most voters. The few victories Corbyn has had have been the most widely noted, mainly Labour stopping Tory plans to cut working tax credits, which interim Labour leader Harriet Harman supported.

Then came a terrorist attack on Paris and the excuse Cameron had been looking for to start bombing Syria. This is a terrible idea and Corbyn was right to oppose it. However, parliament thought otherwise and a few in the Labour Party seized this as an opportunity to embarrass Corbyn; showing once and for all that Blairities care more about being proved right than they do about the Syrian civilians we will inevitably kill and how this will encourage others to flock to ISIS.

Even so, the Syria vote is a major defeat for Corbyn. I think ultimately he will be proved right and that this military intervention in Syria (and Iraq) will only increase support for ISIS. Unfortunately at the point when this becomes apparent everyone will have forgotten Corbyn’s stance on the issue as we will be focusing on a new political crisis. Sometimes it looks as if Corbyn cannot win whatever he does.

Parliament and party politics were more interesting this year than for a long time, but there were important trends outside the Westminster bubble. Read my summary of trends in 2015 and what to epxect in 2016 here.

The Corbyn train wreck

Something which no one anticipated has happened – there has been a major shake up in the Labour leadership contest, and it looks likely that Jeremy Corbyn will win a landslide victory. This has come as a shock to everyone, including Corbyn himself, but on some level it was inevitable. The surge in support for the Greens, the SNP and UKIP over the last parliament shows that voters are fed up with carefully-tailored, spin-doctor-managed politicians who talk a lot and say nothing of value.

Corbyn's success is partly because the other Labour leadership candidates are all so hopeless. However, Corbyn's success is also partly because he has a narrative that members have engaged with, a narrative that Labour can return to its traditional socialist values rather than drift to the right.

Having a successful narrative is essential to politics. Labour lost the election because the electorate did not trust them with the economy. This could be more accurately phrased as the electorate bought the Conservatives’ narrative that Labour over-spending caused the recession and the Tories are sorting the problem out. This is why, despite Labour's spending lock and commitment to austerity, voters still felt they were not economically credible.

Corbyn has given the party hope that politics can change society for the better. His narrative of what is wrong with the country has engaged people with Labour politics on a scale not seen since the halcyon days of Blair. I greatly admire the way in which Corbyn has engaged so many people alienated by politics in general and the Labour Party in particular.

Corbyn's narrative is a radical departure from what senior Labour Party figures have been saying for a long time, and it conflicts directly with the narrative which both the Blarities and the Conservatives are putting forward as to why Labour lost the general election. This is one reason why so many Labour bigwigs have lined up to warn party members not to support him in the leadership election.

A narrative of a return to socialist values speaks to a lot of people about what they think is wrong with society – namely, that there is too much focus on wealth creation and not enough on inequality, and there is too much privatisation driven by ideology and not enough public ownership. It appeals to people who think there are too many benefit cuts and too much blaming the poor for being poor. We are becoming a less caring, meaner and more selfish society under the Tory government, and a narrative that is counter to this is engaging many people.

Corbyn is the only candidate saying we should not blame all of our social problems on immigrants and benefit claimants. Corbyn is the only candidate saying we need to tackle our environmental problems and invest in infrastructure. Corbyn’s narrative is based on values Labour should remember and that the Blarities have tried their hardest to forget. It is a narrative that has changed the leadership election and could become the narrative of the Labour party as a whole.

This new narrative does not fix all of the Labour Party's problems. The main issue with it is that it is a fundamentally backwards-looking narrative. Corbyn's policies are traditional old Labour socialism: nationalisation, higher taxes, more spending, re-opening the coalmines, and withdrawal from NATO. All of these, apart from the last one, are policies I support but they need to be accompanied by a narrative that looks to the future and not the past.

What the left needs right now is powerful narrative about the sort of society we want to create in the future. Ideas like redistribution, basic income, and solutions to the crises being faced in health, education and housing. The left needs to think about how capitalism will change, how to protect the environment and how to protect a minimum standard of living in a world where machines now threaten to take away middle class jobs. The left needs a narrative that brings old Labour values into a current context.

None of the other Labour leadership candidates have any form of narrative, which is one reason why Corbyn is so far ahead in the polls. The other candidates have no means to explain what is wrong with society and how they could change it for the better. Corbyn's narrative of going back to the past is better than the empty sound bites that the other candidates offer.

However, Corbyn’s narrative could cost Labour the 2020 election. Labour wins big when it has a vision for the future and is forward looking. What Labour needs right now is a "white heat of technology" moment, a narrative which describes current circumstances and how society will progress under a Labour government. Corbyn is not offering this.

There is another issue with the Corbyn campaign, and that is the messenger and not the message. Corbyn has supported a number of unpopular causes over the years, including the IRA, Hamas and Hezbollah. Many of the groups he has supported have become legitimate political forces, such as the ANC, but some are still considered enemies of Britain by many voters. Regardless of how good his narrative is, it could fall on deaf ears because of his history and the hammering that he will get in the right wing press, In the end, Corbyn could alienate as many people from the Labour Party as he attracts.

Corbyn's opponents argue that his leadership could be a train wreck. The combination of a backward-looking narrative and a messenger who will be painted as a sympathizer of terrorists could alienate moderate voters and drive them straight to the Tories. If the Tories win in 2020, they will continue their plan to demolish the welfare state and privatize the NHS with a zeal we cannot imagine right now. The people who need an effective opposition the most will be the ones who lose out.

That is one possible train wreck narrative of the future. The other is the train wreck of signing up to the Tory narrative or of having no narrative – these are functionally the same, and are what the other candidates offer. Labour cannot help the people most hurt by the Conservative government by agreeing with benefit cuts, austerity and the mass transfer of assets from the poor to the rich. The Tories have the demographics locked down who support austerity and controls on immigration, and if Labour agrees with them it only makes the Tories look more credible to these people. The Tories could not win under Blair by matching his narrative of spending and Labour cannot win by agreeing with the Tory narrative – it needs to present an alternative.

I do not know which of these two outcomes is more likely. So far, Corbyn's narrative has worked very effectively for him. In just eight weeks he has gone from a no hope candidate to almost certain victory. Will he be able to repeat this on a larger scale over the next five years?

Personally, I feel that the greater trap is not having a narrative or accepting the Tory narrative, which is what cost Ed Miliband the election. A lot of voters want change from the direction the country has gone in over the last 30 years, and Corbyn's message of a return to traditional socialist values seems to be working.

The other candidates’ complete lack of a challenging narrative is a major problem. It will hand electoral victory to the Tories. Over Blair, Brown and Miliband years I have seen too many people of principal alienated by a Labour Party that is walked over by big business and the rich, while failing to stand up for the most disadvantaged people in society. Corbyn is offering a narrative that can change this. Will it be strong enough to counter the muck the right wing press will throw at him? That remains to be seen.

Maybe Corbyn can use his narrative to shift the support of the electorate in his favour. I hope he can. Make no mistake, the chances of a train wreck are high if he fails - but the chances of a train wreck are also high if we do not let him try.

It isn’t the ‘80s anymore

It isn’t the ‘80s any more. I can tell because I’m not writing this whilst listening to a New Order LP and chain-smoking Player’s No. 6, not to mention that I’m doing so on a home computer connected to the internet. Oh, and politics might have changed a bit, as well. With that in mind, the endless comparisons of Jeremy Corbyn to ‘unelectable’ former Labour leader Michael Foot are tiresome and irrelevant.

If we must keep banging on about Labour’s catastrophic 1983 election defeat, at least let’s dispense with the selective memory. Yes, Labour were badly beaten and yes, alright, they did so whilst standing on a left-wing manifesto (albeit a manifesto which was, in some ways, a logical progression from the victorious 1945 one). But there was a lot more at play than that. Thatcher – deeply unpopular in Ghost-Town Britain only a couple of years before – was riding high on patriotic euphoria following the Falklands War. Not only that, but the Lab-SDP split had just occurred, with the breakaway party taking a chunk of Labour votes with them , Labour were lucky to avoid coming third in ’83.

Both of these things, I’d argue, had at least as much to do with the defeat as their manifesto. Whilst the Tories may yet be lucky enough to fight an opposition riven by an SDP-style split in 2020, they’re unlikely – given their currently tiny majority – to have the good fortune of a quick, victorious, popular war to draw votes.

Granted, Foot was an imperfect leader who had the misfortune to take the helm in the choppiest of waters. But he was also a kind, intelligent man, who was treated with appalling cruelty by the press (Milliband’s bacon sandwich episode doesn’t even compare). In the early ‘80s, the newspapers were at the height of their opinion-forming powers. But there’s no way they wield that level of influence now, in the era of the internet and 24-hour news. Social media in particular – for all its faults, not least its tendency to act as an echo chamber for opinions you already hold – has arguably democratised the way we consume news. Never again will that copy of The Sun someone left in the canteen be your sole source of current affairs coverage for the day, however casually you consume your news.

The other factor that’s changed since then is that inequality has increased along many lines, not least generationally. The apathy of the current generation of young people is being killed off in death by a thousand cuts. Already disadvantaged compared to their parents by university tuition fees (thanks to Blair), ridiculous housing costs and fewer job opportunities, they’re now – like a bloke who’s just been beaten up having his wallet nicked by a passing mugger – being deprived the same benefits and minimum wage that over-25s get. Is it any surprise that a major part of the surge in support for Corbyn is amongst young people?

Every generation can be said to live, to some degree, in the shadow of the previous one (or two). But it’s especially acute for the current generation of young people. Structurally disadvantaged and discriminated against in so many ways, they’re also being collectively told by their elders not to bother with all that idealistic, let’s change the world stuff. We already tried it, say the older generation, and take it from us, it doesn’t work. We learned to get with the programme (and create New Labour). Now, I don’t know about you, but that isn’t the most inspiring message to me. And if there’s one thing no-one likes, it’s being told to grow up and get real (least of all by Tony Blair).

These young people have no emotional affinity with the Labour Party. And why should they? The focus-group driven New Labour, with its slick PR, seemed to actively discourage a grass-roots movement. Whereas some old lefties may lament for a time when this wasn’t the case, today’s young people have never known it any different. They don’t give a toss what happened in the ‘80s. But they are getting fired up by Corbyn’s message. This is also why the accusations of ‘80s Militant Tendendy-style ‘entryism’ – an organised attempt to infiltrate, and change, the party - don’t ring true. If ‘entryism’ (if we must call it that) is indeed happening, in that people are signing up for the first time in order to vote Corbyn. I’d argue it’s primarily people who were previously too disengaged with mainstream parties to want to be involved.

Admittedly, some of Corbyn’s policies (unilateral nuclear disarmament, for example) have always been divisive, both within and outside of the Labour Party. But how have we been hoodwinked into believing that universal free education – in place for decades in Britain prior to Blair - is a radical, hard-left position? I think a lot of young people are wondering why, and finding the political establishment wanting.

The tuition fees issue is symptomatic, because the terms of the debate surrounding it all too often both contribute to, and reflect, the rampant, selfish individualism so prevalent and unchallenged in society. Someone has to pay for universities, the Right argue, and it’ll either have to be those who go – or those who don’t go. Whatever happened to the idea, once held on the right as well as the left, that wide access to higher education was beneficial to society as a whole?

Look at Corbyn, by contrast, and the way he talks to the public on the assumption that people care about how society gets on in general, care about other people. The other candidates talk to the public as separate, self-interested individuals, and play to their assumed individual aspirations for themselves. This, for me, is one of the clearest dividing lines between Corbyn and the other candidates, who indirectly seem to take for granted the Thatcherite myth that there really is no such thing as society, only individuals and their families. Only Corbyn is seriously challenging this. Without his presence in the race, there’d barely even be a debate.

On a personal note, after the last election, I’d begun to come to terms with the fact that a more compassionate, kinder politics simply wasn’t what most people wanted. But the unexpected rising tide of support for Corbyn – especially amongst young people, who’ve been given the message that the Left is beaten, marginalised and irrelevant their whole lives – gives me hope. Meanwhile, the Blairites tell us that electing Corbyn would consign Labour to merely becomming a protest movement to oppose Tory cuts. Well, as the old joke goes, it would be a start though, wouldn’t it? Perhaps it’s the necessary first step on the long road toward towards becoming relevant again, and rebuilding a movement that people can connect with and relate to.

Why Labour needs Corbyn to start winning again

Anyone who reads this blog regularly will have guessed that I am backing Jeremy Corbyn for Labour leader. I am on the left of Labour Party and his views most accurate represent my own. I think it is time that Labour put forward a genuine left-wing alternative in mainstream politics.

At first the rest of the Labour Party dismissed Corbyn as either a dinosaur or a crank. Now there is a chance he might do well in the ballot, perhaps even coming top in terms of first preferences. Now the concerned voices are being raised in the Guardian, the Independent and by former leader Tony Blair, that he is too leftwing to win a general election.

The argument that these articles and others are putting forward is that choosing Corbyn as a leader would be a mistake as he would drive the centre of the electorate into the hands of the Tories. All these articles take it as read that Labour lost this year's general election because the platform they stood on was too leftwing. Personally I don’t think that a manifesto that contains austerity and controls on immigration can be described as especially leftwing. The commentators overlook this and claim that the election was an endorsement for the centre right.

These articles are quick to point out southern English voters did not trust Labour with the economy and thus voted Conservative. Although they never mention the voters Labour lost to the SNP, or the Greens, who stood on an anti-austerity platform similar to Corbyn's. These articles also seem to claim wide electoral support for austerity. The truth is that the voters were given little alternative to austerity, which is not endorsing it. Many chose to reject austerity, especially in Scotland, and these are the voters that Corbyn can win back to the Labour Party.

Articles which proclaim the unelectability of Corbyn also do not mention all the people who did not vote at all in the last election. The convergence of the two main parties on a narrower and narrower section of the centre have alienated many people whose views lie outside this thin section. Many of these people are poor or from monitories and are completely disaffected by mainstream politics. In the last election 34% of people did not vote, enough to profoundly alter the result. This represents a huge pool of voters a candidate of principle, whom a candidate outside the narrow centre ground of politics like Corbyn could appeal to.

Many voters are put off Labour because the party is seen as indistinguishable from the Tories, a problem which is not helped by Labour failing to stand up to Tory welfare cuts, their use of anti-immigration rhetoric and their support for austerity. As a Labour Party supporter I find it hard to see how an Andy Burnham or Liz Kendall government would be different from a David Cameron or George Osborne government is any meaningful way. Undoing Ed Miliband’s minuscule step to the left will not win back all the voters who are put off by how similar to the two main parties are. Having Corbyn as a leader will differentiate Labour, there is no point being an opposition if you are not seen as different.

The articles also fail to mention the significant UKIP vote in the general election. On paper Corbyn is unlikely to appeal to UKIP voters, however UKIP were effective at stealing voters from Labour with rhetoric against the "Westminster bubble". Burnham or Yvette Cooper will not be able to connect to the voters alienated by how distant Westminster politics appears from their lives. Corbyn talks with conviction about the problems people are facing in their lives. He is also clearly outside the Westminster bubble and not another cardboard cut out politician. Corbyn's politics are very different to that of UKIP, but he could win over people who distrust mainstream politicians.

The reason Labour lost the election was because they tried to retake the centre ground of politics which the Tories occupy. Supporting austerity, benefit cuts and controls on immigration do not make you appealing to centre voters if they Tories are offering the same thing and are already in a position to deliver it. The centre does not like change, so if they are satisfied with their government it will not change.

The Tories are unlikely to lose this centre ground over the next five years and it is clear that Labour needs to change direction if they want to win in 2020. Running the same campaign as Miliband ran with some minor adjustments, as Burnham will most likely do, will result in another Tory victory.

Corbyn offers a genuine change in direction and thus a chance of winning in 2020. Kendall does offer a change of direction but it is towards the centre which the Tories will most likely keep control off. If Labour want to win then they need to start thinking about the voters they lost to the SNP and the Greens and the people who voted UKIP or did not vote at all because of their dissatisfaction with mainstream politics.

The chance of Corbyn winning in 2020 is small, but the chances of Burnham, Cooper or Kendall winning in 2020 are also small. There is not a winning candidate amongst the alternatives to Corbyn; this is why he is ahead in the polls. If Labour cannot win then they should at least offer a genuine alternative to the Tories, which will attract more support for the future.

A change of direction towards those disaffected by Labour offers the only chance of success in 2020 or post 2020. Aiming for the centre again will only repeat the 2015 outcome. Labour need to broaden their appeal to those put off mainstream politics, the marginalised and the angry; Corbyn can achieve this. It may not be what the centre of the party wants but if we listen to the centre of the party we will lose in 2020.

One of the reasons I support Corbyn is the way the political establishment has their knickers in a twist over him. They are shocked to see a leftwing politician speaking his mind and applled that people are actually agreeing with him. It makes them question all the certainties the Labour establishment thinks it learned in the 2015 defeat. It shows that 2015 was not the triumph of the centre right. The Labour establishment and their centrism have not been threatened like this in a long time. They genuinely frightened that the left of the party might get what they want and might be popular, all those compromises of Blair will be for nothing.

Chasing the centre, following austerity, being bland, none of this will help Labour win in 2020. Being different will help Labour win, reaching out to new people will help Labour win, showing they care will help. Not being like every other party will help. Corbyn can do all of these things; Corbyn can expand the appeal of the Labour Patrty. The other leadership candidates cannot. That is why we need Corbyn as a party leader if we are going to start winning again.